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Should vaccination be compulsory for those entering the workplace?

Employers have health and safety duties to take reasonable steps to reduce any workplace risks.

Vaccination is an important part of reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace. To date, the government has only legislated for the COVID-19 vaccine to be mandatory for workers in registered care homes in England. From 11 November 2021, the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/891) require workers deployed in Care Quality Commission regulated care homes in England to be fully vaccinated unless they are exempt. The government intends to consult on whether to extend the requirement to workers in the health and social care sectors.

The first question to consider when contemplating a COVID-19 vaccination policy (for employers outside of the care sector) is whether or not to make vaccination compulsory for those entering the workplace. ACAS advises that employers should support staff in getting the vaccine without making it a requirement, and encourage them to do so by, for example, offering paid time off to attend vaccination appointments. According to ACAS, a quarter of British employers have not been giving their staff paid time off for coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccinations.

However, imposing a mandatory vaccination requirement gives rise to a number of issues, including:

  • Mandatory vaccination could be indirectly discriminatory against certain protected characteristics and a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
  • Vaccination is not suitable for everyone.
  • A vaccination requirement may be difficult to justify on health and safety grounds because the current advice is that vaccination is not a substitute for workplace COVID-secure measures which must still be complied with.
  • Consultation with workplace and health and safety representatives, and with trade unions, is likely to be required.
  • There are data protection implications of requiring employees to provide information on their vaccination status, verifying its accuracy, and retaining that data.

An alternative approach without the risks of a mandatory vaccination programme is for employers to introduce a policy which encourages the workforce to get vaccinated against COVID-19. However, employers with a voluntary policy for existing workers who want to make it a contractual requirement for new recruits to be vaccinated may face similar legal and reputational challenges.

If you require a Covid19 vaccination policy for your workplace or have questions about this please contact Irina Polyakova on 01484 821 300 or at